There is more to becoming a plumber than just knowing how to plug a leak. Though postsecondary programs are available, apprenticeships are the most common training path for prospective plumbers. Licensure is generally required for this fast-growing occupation.
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Pipe systems used for moving water, sewage, gas, and other materials are installed and maintained by professional plumbers. Most aspiring plumbers complete apprenticeship programs that last 4-5 years. Postsecondary courses at colleges are also available in such areas as welding, tool usage, and pipe system design. After individuals complete the necessary training, they can find careers as general plumbers or they can specialize and become pipefitters or sprinklerfitters. Most states have licensing requirements for plumbers, and some states have additional licensing requirements for plumbers who work on gas lines.
|Education Requirements||Plumbing apprenticeship or vocational degree program|
|Other Requirements||State licensure for plumbers; additional special licenses might be required|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||12% for all plumbers, pipefitters and sprinklerfitters*|
|Median Salary (2015)||$50,620 for all plumbers, pipefitters and sprinklerfitters*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Those who complete plumbing education programs can find jobs as general plumbers, pipefitters, or sprinklerfitters. Below are descriptions of these careers and information about their similarities and differences.
Plumbers install, repair and maintain systems for transporting water, sewage, and gas. Plumbers who work for construction companies hook up and install a building's plumbing and water systems to the available municipal or other water supply, adhering to codes and using a variety of tools and measurements to ensure accuracy. Those who work for plumbing repair companies visit homes and businesses to repair water, sewer, and plumbing systems, fix sinks or toilets, or replace worn or broken pipes.
Pipefitters work with high and low pressure pipe systems used in manufacturing, power generation, and heating and cooling systems. They install and maintain these specialized systems and work on the control systems that allow for their operation and monitoring. Some pipefitters specialize in one particular area, such as the movement of high pressure liquids or gases. Unlike plumbers, their sole concern is the proper functioning of pipes and their connections.
Sprinklerfitters are specialized pipefitters who work only with the installation and maintenance of automatic fire sprinkler systems. They are typically employed during construction of commercial buildings or large apartment buildings that are required by law or code to feature automatic sprinkler systems. They might also be called in to repair or service systems after installation.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, including sprinklerfitters, are predicted to increase by 12% from 2014-2024. The median annual salary of plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters in May 2015 was $50,620, per BLS reports. Plumbing professionals in the metal ore mining industry earned the highest average annual wage of $77,120, as of May 2015. Other top paying industries for these workers include the water treatment industry and the spectator sports industry.
It can take a 4-5 year apprenticeship for you to become qualified in the field of plumbing, of which pipefitting and sprinklefitting are specialized areas. Training programs in various aspects of plumbing are available through community or vocational colleges. Most states require you to be licensed, and special licensure may be called for if you intend to work on gas lines.